Three weeks ago, Washington State University’s redshirt sophomore quarterback, Tyler Hilinski, was starting the Holiday Bowl. The 21-year-old played so well in that game that he was fully expected to be the teams starter going into the 2018 season.
Unfortunately, that is no longer the case.
On January 16, Hilinski was found dead in his apartment due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to the Pullman police department. A few days later, the Whitman County Coroner’s office confirmed that his tragic death was indeed a suicide.
“We are deeply saddened to hear the news of Tyler’s passing,” Washington State University head coach Mike Leach said in a statement released by the school. “He was an incredible young man and everyone who had the privilege of knowing him was better for it. The entire WSU community mourns as thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
Hilinski is just one of millions of people who are affected by mental health issues every day. In fact, one in every four people will be affected by a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lives, according to the World Health Organization.
Despite that statistic, Hilinski’s coaches, teammates, family and the Washington State community were seemingly unaware of the inner struggle that he was facing.
On the surface, prior to his passing, Hilinski’s life seemed to be fine. In addition to starting a bowl game, earlier this season he led Washington State to its biggest win, a three-overtime victory over Boise State.
However, no matter what it may look like, we can never be sure of what others are going through.
After the news of the suicide broke, former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe posted a powerful message on his Instagram in the wake of Hilinski’s death.
“Reaching out for help when we need it is NOT a sign of weakness,” Bledsoe wrote. “Trusting your friends and asking for help is the ultimate sign of STRENGTH.”
There is never a wrong time to reach out and talk about what you are going through.
Suicide takes about 44,965 American lives a year according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
That is an average of 123 suicides per day.
These numbers are staggering, and unfortunately the suicide rates in young people (ages 15-24) is only increasing since 2013 according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
As we begin 2018, we need to continue to emphasize that turning to someone to talk is never a burden, whether it is a friend or a famly member. There are people that are willing to help and look out for everyone, it is just a matter of talking about the issues that you personally have.
ESPN’s Darren Rovell made a call to action in the wake of Hilinski’s death via Twitter that I believe must be shared.
“One of the things we can all do to honor his memory and save more lives is to break down the stigma around mental health,” Rovell wrote. “There is still a long way to go. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.”
Even if we can’t see it, by staying involved in the lives of the people close to us, we in turn become a person they can to turn to. Keep tabs on your friends. Even if you no longer go to school with them, reach out once and a while to see how they’re doing.
Truly being there for your friends doesn’t mean waiting until something is wrong to help. Instead, strive to be a person that others will look to when they need someone.
University of Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield offered his condolescences and prayers to the Hilinski family via Twitter, and he ended his message with this:
“Spread the love everybody, you never know the difference you can make with just one conversation.”